Gay Travel Guide - Berlin, Germany
Updated March 2014
Back in the Cabaret era of the 20's, Berlin was the undisputed gay capital of the world. Now ten years after the fall of The Wall, Berlin is perhaps Europe's most dynamic city, a diverse and multifaceted metropolis emerging from its cluttered history. A cultural powerhouse, Berlin is able to whet the appetite the most widely traveled palate.
A friend's 30 birthday was the reason for eight of us to book a short city break to Berlin, to savior the sites and find ourselves a bit of German blond totty.
European city breaks are getting increasingly popular and cheaper to organise. We booked cheap flights (around £35 each way) with KLM. Flight time from Stanstead Airport (London) is literally just one and a half hours and cost around £35 each way. Although we flew into Berlin's Tegel airport, Buzz are switching to Shönefeld airport from the end of March which apparently has extra capacity. The local currency is still the Euro. Prices compare favourably with the UK. Don't worry if your O'level german is a bit patchy, english is wildly spoken, especially if you say it loud enough (only joking).
Ten years after the fall of the wall there are numerous new international hotels popping up all over the place. We stayed in the Crowne Plaza (Nürnberger Str. 65) which was very reasonably priced, centrally located in the Wittenberg Platz area, close to the shops including KaDeVe (Germany's equivalent of Harrods) and the Shöneberg gay district for bars and clubs. There are a number of specifically gay hotels which we've listed in the directory.
We did an awful look of walking the first day to get a feel for the place. However once that novelty wears off, Berlin is very well served by the U-Bahn underground system which covers much of the centre and the suburbs. Tickets cost around DM4 (£1.3) and are valid for 2 hours. Daily and weekly passes are available as well as 3 day Welcome Card which gives unlimited city travel and discount entry to many of the city's tourist attractions. Taxis are also plentiful and reasonably priced. Just flag one down as you would in London.
With so much recent history taking place in Berlin you should make an effort to visit some of the famous landmarks. On our arrival we walked from the hotel, through the Tiergarten up to the Brandenberg Gate (which unfortunately is having a facelift and therefore is currently totally covered up. Then onto the Reichstag with its impressive glass dome designed by British architect Norman Foster. You can go up into the dome where you can look down on the German government as well as getting a tremendous view over the city. You should also visit PotsDam Platz, The Soviet War Memorial, the list is endless. After a few beers and tucking into a selection of delicious cakes we pottered along Unter Den Linden, into the former east Berlin and did our best to dig out a few gay bars.
Potsdam Platz (think Leicester Square only smarter) features the very impressive new Sony head office, new cinemas and arts centres and a decent shopping centre called Arcaden. All hi-tech, covered in glass and very angular. You should consider taking a tourist bus which run trips round the city taking in the bulk of the tourist and historical places of interest. These cost around DM29 (£10) for a 2 hours trip.
Gay Bars and Clubs:
Berlin has always has a reputation for steamy nightlife. Most of the gay bars and clubs are concentrated around two main areas. Shöneberg (Central South West) and Prenzlauer Berg (North East). There are a number of useful pocket gay guides you can pick up on arrival which will give you an in-depth guide to current venues. For you interest we visited Hafen (bars), Connection Club, Roses.
Berlin is well served by gay saunas. Word of mouth suggested Triebhaus Sauna (Schönhauser Allee 132 10437 Berlin) is the best of the bunch, busy late afternoon/early evenings. We can agree with that having availed ourselves of its facilities later that evening. Other gay saunas include Gate Sauna (Wilhelm Str 81), Appolo City Steam (Kurfurstenstr. 101) and Steam (Kurfurstenstr. 113)
had all "packed our furs" expecting freezing weather but
were pleasantly surprised to find it fairly mild and not constant
as we have become accustomed to at home.
Shopping and Eating Out
Although shopping wasn't really a priority on this trip, it is certainly worth checking out Kaufhauf Des Westens (KADeV), Berlin's equivalent of Harrods, situated on Kleiststr. There are the usual crop of international names around including Gap and Benetton. Unter Den Linden just east of the Brandenberg Gate is lined with new shops. Unter Den Linden like huge areas of Berlin is being redeveloped with old building being demolished and replaced by 5 star hotels, designer shops and head offices of major organisations.
The feeling we got from Berlin was of a fascinating city undergoing huge changes as it is rebuilt and recovers from its recent history. The centre seems quiet and relaxed compared to the bustle of London. A lot of central Berlin is still a building site, yet in another 10 years with all the impressive new buildings going up it should be a truly modern city. The gay scene is there in all its glory, not quite on the scale of London, but with plenty of choice. Certainly too much to see in a weekend, I look forward to returning in a few years.
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